Max Weber’s Concept of ‘Life Chances’

Explain how an individual’s social class position at birth may affect what Max Weber called “life chances”?*

– Describe how “life chances” may affect an individual’s life goals (positive or negative).
– In what ways may “life chances” be irrelevant?
– Give examples of how the concept of “life chances” operates in a (a) caste system, (b) a class system, and (c) a one-party Communist system such as China.

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*By “life chances” Weber meant the ability of an individual to attain the “good things” a society values: good health care, longevity, a good job, security, status, wealth, power, and prestige.

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Max Weber’s Life Chances

Eminent sociologist and philosopher Max Weber was a great observer and analyst of the social world. He looked, for example, on the manner by which social-group membership and culture as well as religion shape identity (i.e. His Study of the Protestant Ethic). His interest in what makes society work, what shapes identity and culture has led him to observe what he calls as the phenomenon of ‘Life Chances’. Essentially at its root he refers to the available resources and opportunities an individual has in his/her own life situations taking into account personality, identity, social class, culture, gender, age and political association. There are varied other random elements of course as each individual is unique but this is why he refers to it as ‘life chances’ because it is in the uniqueness of these combinations of elements that can perhaps probabilistically determine how one person will do in life. For example, a child born in the first world (i.e. American babies born to middle class parents) will probably have more chances of surviving the first few weeks and then growing up to receive good nutrition and education than say, a child born in a really poor nation (i.e. Darfur infants born by refugee parents in camps). At infancy, life chances means ‘chance at life’ and as the person gains knowledge and social experience as well as skills and social importance, it comes to symbolise or refer to the possibilities of success, failure, abundance, prosperity, development or the opposite thereof.

Sometimes however, in developing countries like Thailand and the Philippines, poor parents who …

Solution Summary
The solution is a 1,184-word essay that discusses Max Weber’s concept of ‘Life Chances’ and how it affects an individual’s life goals and aspirations. How life chances operates in such social orders as a caste system, a class system and a communist society is also discusses. Possibilities wherein life chances might not be irrelevant is also included in the discussion. References are listed to allow students room for further research.

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